How to Attract and Retain Millennial Talent

Millennials (members of Generation Y) are quickly becoming the majority of the workforce. Companies who want to stay relevant and competitive should adapt to this influx of new talent and new challenges. TalentCulture has previously addressed this topic in The Five Secrets to Retaining Millennial Talent and we want to continue that conversation. Our most recent survey of millennials in the US and Canada showed that career advancement opportunities, meaningful engaging tasks, and work culture/environment are three of the most important factors that attract Gen Ys to join and stay at a company. While these values are shared amongst all generations of workers, what sets the millennial generation apart from other generations is how they define and understand these key decision factors.

In order to tap into top millennial talent, employers need to understand how millennial experiences shape their perspectives and behaviors. As a generation, millennials have been influenced by the constant influx of new technologies, social networking, video game culture, the internet, and a modernized educational model that develops students beyond the classroom. The result of these influences is a generation of workers that has an expectation of constant self-progression, a need for social and professional connections, and a multidimensional definition of success. These unique experiences and expectations are what set millennials apart from previous generations.

By understanding the experiences that have shaped millennials mental models of the world, employers will be able to adapt and change their work environment to be a place where millennials succeed. Companies that want to attract millennial talent should focus their talent acquisition and retention strategies on the following three key areas.

Millennials Expect: Clear and Consistent Advancement

Our society has undergone an unprecedented era of technological advancement, and millennials have been the first generation to develop in this environment of constant and rapid progress.  Furthermore, their education system reinforced the belief that progress should be continuous and measurable by providing students with quick, frequent feedback. Whereas other generations may have seen the merits of long-term, steady career advancement, millennials pursue growth that is accelerated and concrete. This broad underlying set of experiences has shaped the millennial generation to expect clear and consistent advancement in both their lives and in their employment.

Those in Gen Y want to do quality work and be reassured that they are progressing in the right direction. Their experience with video game culture has shaped this desire. Video games provide an environment of clear, measurable achievement progress in the form of points, leveling up, and badges. Employers can leverage these intrinsic motivators by providing an environment that builds on these ideas.

For example, it is more effective to have weekly, informal, one-on-one check-ins with millennials than the traditional annual performance reviews. The Center for Generational Kinetics reported that 42% of millennials want feedback every week. This is over twice the percentage of every other generation. [1] The focus of these meetings should be specific and actionable feedback for the employee, and should include the business impact behind the critique, regardless of if the feedback is positive or negative. By understanding the why, millennials will be propelled forward by renewed intrinsic motivation and thus will perform more effectively for the business.

Another way employers can utilize millennials’ passion for constant improvement is to offer them new opportunities in the form of new responsibilities, training, time with company leaders, and/or promotions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 45% of millennials who are willing to consider other job opportunities would leave a job if they didn’t see a career path they wanted at the company. [1] Employers can succeed in retaining millennials by providing opportunity beyond financial incentives.

Millennials Expect: Meaningful Work

The internet allows millennials to connect with people and information in immediate ways that were never before available to previous generations. Finding their work meaningful is especially significant to millennials because they view their career as a core facet of their identity.  “Millennials see no difference between work and life…All efforts in both are interwoven in a greater purpose, mission or passion.” [2] They need to relate to their work and work environment and merge that with their self-image.

In order for millennials to feel connected with their workplace, they need to understand how their role and work fits into the context of the organization.They will more easily contribute to the organization’s goals once they have an understanding of how they are assisting to those goals. Impressively, 60% of millennials said a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer. [1]

Corporate branding that showcases your company’s tech-savviness will speak to millennials’ identities and garner their interest. Employers must consider how prospective candidates perceive their online presence and job postings. I.e. will candidates be able to identify with your company if they only see your website? Millennials expect organizations to have a strong relationship with technology, so leverage your tech presence to attract them. Show them how your organization is different from others in your field.

Millennials Expect: A Sense of Value

The rise of social networks has enabled millennials to be ever-more connected with their peers. Millennials now want to feel bonded to their coworkers, managers, and workplace. Employers can foster these bonds by creating a welcoming social environment for their employees, and also by placing more emphasis on employee development and mentorship. A sense of value, for millennials, comes from actively being a part of a team, being appreciated for their quality of work, and having strong leaders guiding them.

For example, employers can better help millennials feel connected to their organization by using smaller teams, where peer relationships develop naturally and their work holds more significance. The connections they form will enable them to engage with their assignments on a deeper passion and produce higher quality results. Advertising that your company practices these small group techniques will encourage Gen Y’s to apply to your organization.

Gen Ys want to work in an environment that values their personal growth as much as they do. Employers can differentiate themselves from the competition by providing managers and team leads who act as career mentors. Meghan M. Biro said it best when she said, “having a great mentor is a key factor to improving employee engagement among millennials.”.  TalentCulture provides a guide for how to make the most out of employee mentoring. By connecting with mentors who guide them towards better opportunities, millennials are more likely to stay with a company.

It Doesn’t Stop Here

The insights above have been inspired by our most recent research, including a survey of working millennials in the US and Canada. Other data and support was drawn from the Center for Generational Kinetics article “Unlocking Millennial Potential 2015” [1] We also have delved deeper into this topic on the blog. Send us your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @dreamhireio.


[1] The Center for Generational Kinetics, “Unlocking Millennial Potential 2015, Brand New Insights For Employing the Fastest Growing Generation in the Workplace”, (2015)

[2]  Brittney Barbe, “Is Work-Life Balance Dead? Depends on Which Generation You Ask.”, (August 3, 2016)

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